Vanguard is a 1981 arcade game developed by TOSE, and published by SNK in Japan in 1981 and later during the same year in Germany by the same publisher, while it was licensed to Centuri for manufacture in North America in October 1981 and by Zaccaria in Italy during the same year, putting SNK on the map in those regions. The game was also licensed to Cinematronics for conversion to cocktail arcade cabinets in North America.
The game is known as one of the first scrolling shooters ever made that allowed scrolling in multiple directions, and is additionally notable by being the first shoot 'em up where a player can shoot in four different directions. Also, unlike other comparable games at the time, Vanguard was unique in that the player must focus on avoiding obstacles while firing in order to survive; which made this game a precursor to Konami's Gradius and Irem's R-Type. It also has the distinction of being the first colored game released by SNK. It was also an early example of a dual-control game, similar to the later Robotron 2084, but using four directional buttons rather than a second joystick.
The Gond has been terrorizing nearby space colonies with its periodic raids of destruction. The time has come to put an end to his reign of terror. The player has been selected to pilot an advanced fighter ship with high offensive capabilities, and must enter the cave inside the asteroid where the Gond makes his home, and safely fly through every zone; the Mountain Zone, Rainbow Zone, Styx Zone, Stripe Zone, Bleak Zone, and the City of Mystery (aka Last Zone) where the Gond is rumored to reside. The player must take the Gond out, and succeed in the mission. If unsuccessful, the colonies will be doomed.
Vanguard is very similar to Scramble, in the sense that the player controls a ship urged along a surrounding conduit with a constantly varying profile, and with a limited amount of fuel that constantly depletes. Some zones start off primarily as a horizontal scroller, but in some zones, the ship flies vertically. Also, at the end of each zone the player must defeat a boss that is guarded by two moving force fields with holes in them while scrolling vertically. There are a total of ten zones in the game: Mountain Zone, Rainbow Zone, Styx Zone, Rainbow Zone 2, Stripe Zone, Rainbow Zone 3, Bleak Zone, and the City of Mystery/Last Zone. The second tunnel consists of in order Mountain Zone, Stripe Zone, Styx Zone, Rainbow Zone, Bleak Zone, and the City of Mystery/Last Zone. The player loses a life if fuel runs completely out, but gains more as enemies are destroyed. The ship can independently fire lasers in any of the four cardinal directions using the four buttons. By securing the energy pods, a short time of invulnerability can be granted. This turns the ship effectively into a weapon, and the enemies change attack patterns to avoid the player. The player must constantly avoid colliding with the walls, which change in thickness and visual appearance all throughout the stages. The walls can be used defensively to avoid oncoming enemy fire. Pushing the joystick opposite the direction of scrolling allows the player to temporarily 'park' the ship with respect to the direction of scrolling. This maneuver may be performed while the ship is protected by a wall, allowing enemy ships and their fusillade to pass without harm.
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